The Secrets of Successful Trapping by Herbert Lenon Wolf, Coyote, Fox, and Bobcat Trapping
The Secrets of Successful Trapping by Herbert Lenon Wolf, Coyote, Fox, and Bobcat Trapping
Copyright 1944 Revised 2022
MY WRITTEN GUARANTEE
I guarantee the sets in this book to be my favorite sets and the sets I used to make my exceptionally good catches.
I guarantee the scent formulas in this book to be the latest and best formulas, the formula of the scents I sold during 1938 to 1942, and further guarantee them to be the exact formulas of the scents I used myself to make my excellent catches.
I guarantee the instructions for treatment of traps and all other instructions to be exactly the same methods I used myself.
I guarantee the instructions and stories told in this book to be the truth, to the best of my memory and knowledge.
I guarantee the information regarding my ability as a trapper is the truth.
I give you my word that I have written this book with honest intent and in it have given as full and honest instructions as my ability to do so and I promise you I have not left out even one of the so-called secrets; nor have I added any instructions that I do not consider absolutely necessary.
I give my word I have done my very best to teach you to trap. If any tips or instructions of which I have knowledge have been left out of this book; I promise you it is only because I forgot them and left them out unintentionally.
Wolf, Coyote, Fox, and Bobcat Trapping
BY HERBERT LENON
Probably the first thought one has when reading a book of trapping instructions is the author’s qualifications as an instructor, if the author is just another fake with a good line of gab or if he is really a trapper who has trapped for years and learned the hard way and really knows the game. Therefore, I wish to write a few lines about my experience as a trapper and tell some of the catches and records I have made. I was born on a farm in Michigan and have trapped since a child of six years. My father and most of my uncles were farmers and many of them trapped and hunted much of their free time during fall and winter.
My first trapping experience was when my father took three number one traps, nailed them to the center of three sticks of stove wood, gave one to me and the others to my sister and brother and with a few instructions of muskrat trapping started our trapping career.
We took the traps to a small stream on our farm and set them the first night; Sister had a rat toe; a few days later I had a big mink in my trap; believe me I was some happy, then and there I decided I would not bother with such dumb animals as rats but would become a great mink trapper and the truth is, it is very little muskrat trapping I ever did. I trapped mostly for mink and in a few years was known as the best mink trapper in that section of the state.
Several years after, I set my first traps for fox; I set nine traps and looked at them two days later; I had three foxes in them.
A few years later I set six traps for coyote, the first time I tended them I had two coyotes, pups of course, but coyotes just the same.
I am quite sure it was my success at the start of trapping each species that gave me the necessary confidence in my ability and thus fanned a desire to become Michigan’s Outstanding Trapper. My first fox lure was a scent made of rotten eggs and anise; my first mink lure a scent of fish oil and mink musk. Today I laugh at such lures, but they were better than bait and encouraged me to experiment with lures and to my record catches of coyote and fox I give much of the credit to the lures I used.
In 1936 I worked 15 hours a day and made a catch of coyote that was a record in the history of the State, using 61 traps, I caught 47 coyotes, 3 bobcats and one wolf; I had three coyotes and six traps stolen the first week; besides I got three coyote’s feet and had two wolves escape from the size three traps I was using; a total of 53 coyotes, three cats, three wolves caught in 30 days and had only 52 traps left at the end of the month.
In this month there were 35 trappers bountied wolf, coyote, and cat in District Six; there was a total of 127 bountied by the 35 trappers of which I bountied 49 or about 38 percent of the total. Besides I sold one coyote and cat to a tourist to have tanned for his den.
MY THEORY OF TRAPPING
For many, many years I had trapped fox and many of the other furbearers, mostly as a sideline, but with the coming of the depression and the scarcity of jobs, I decided to become a professional trapper.
During those years, I had known many fox and coyote trappers that enjoyed quite a reputation as expert trappers, but none really caught enough fur to make a decent living; none seemed to really study the game, or to change their tactics from those used by the preceding generation.
After I had decided to make a profession of trapping wolf, coyote, and fox, I realized it was a profession that required a great deal of thought, study, and a decision to change from the usual methods employed; therefore, I decided to concentrate on a theory of trapping, and when I thought I had it perfected, to disprove, or prove my theory.
Here is about how my line of reasoning was laid out and the theory it developed: This may sound rather odd to you readers, but it proved its worth and unbelievable good success was the result.
First in my theory was the fact that the members of the dog family had the ability to reason, run more or less in packs, were next to human brings in intelligence, had a streak of curiosity, established calling posts, had regular crossing places; had certain places where they came to play or howl, had regular feed ranges; depended on their nose and eyes to protect them from danger, and that their instinct to sense danger was present only when something aroused that instinct. First then, was to eliminate the protection from those keen eyes and much keener nose.
Knowing that a dog could follow the spoor of a rabbit several hours old, and at a run, there could be absolutely nothing foreign whatsoever at, or in the vicinity of the set. For the eyes, all that was necessary was to have the set look perfectly natural; if a blind set, it must look as it did before the trap was set; if a hole set, it must look like a hole dug by another animal, in fact, the only factor to consider was a natural looking set.
For the nose, one’s traps and grapple must be free of odor, this was simple to do, boil in lye, wash off the lye, boil again in a tanning bark from trees native to the area. To protect from odor from hands, clean gloves, to protect from odor from footwear, clean rubbers to be worn over the shoes only while in the vicinity of the set, as a further protection, a clean canvas pad, covered with rubber sheeting to kneel on while making the set, to protect from excessive body odor, frequent bathing, and very frequent changing to clean clothing.
Those precautions, in my theory, eliminated the eyes and nose. Next was how to prevent rousing the so-called instinct. In this factor, now don’t laugh, I pretended I was a very much wanted criminal, hounded by officers and civilians alike: Such criminals soon developed an instinct for danger. I pretended I was hiding in a wild area, occasionally coming to some farm to steal food: When at this farm I naturally expected to see signs of man; tracks, and so forth, at this farm or on the road near it, I was not frightened by those tracks, but if I saw a track back in the woods immediately I would become frightened, and if a little further on I saw a nice coat or pocketbook laying in the trail; surely I would connect that with danger of a trap for me.
Well, what I am trying to tell you is simply this, a man’s track, or odor, on a road, or near a farmhouse, does not arouse the fear instinct of a wolf or fox; but back in the woods they most surely do; remedy; never leave a track, odor, or sign anywhere in or near your trapping area.
My next theory was regarding bunching my traps, that is setting traps in groups of from 3 to 5 for fox and wolf or cat, and in bunches of from 8 to 15 for coyote during the time the litters were running together and from 4 to 8 after the snow came and litters were more or less scattered. The first theory on this practice was, if one had several traps set in a small area, one was much more likely to get the first animal that came through; after getting the first one, then one had the greatest attractor of all, a live animal tied up in a trap to call in the others.
A coyote or wolf in a trap often howls and calls others, a fox or cat will often squall which calls others, all those animals will urinate and leave droppings in quite a large amount at the place they are trapped; this along with the body odor of a hot fighting animal would surely be scented for a long distance by other animals, and they would be quite sure to investigate; and while doing so, would become caught in one of the other traps in the group: Well, it sure worked. This group setting had the same effect as tying up a fox or coyote, and setting traps in trails leading to it, as done by some of the old-time trappers.
Another of my theories was; where, when and why to use lure or bait; my theory in the use of bait was to use bait only during the time of year when food was scarce or difficult to procure and to use it only at traps set in an area that I considered a feeding area; in other words, used only in such areas frequented by the animal I was trapping, when it was searching for food: Not in sets in an area where wolf, fox, etc., were coming to play, howl, etc. after they had a full stomach. The use of lures, such as those containing urine, glands, musks, etc., were to be used in areas frequented by the animal to be trapped, when that animal had already filled its stomach and was ready to play or fool around investigating this and that, to satisfy its curiosity, and enjoy itself.
To me, it was just common sense and logic to theorize that the odor of muskrat musk, canton, tonquin, or other musks, were of much less interest to an animal that was ravenously hungry, than to one that had a full belly.
Some more of my theories that proved to be of great value, were the setting of traps in openings where the wind current carried the odor of the lure closer to the ground, and in a more direct line; the use of lure on some projection, or in a dirt hole that was visible; the setting of traps to take advantage of the prevailing wind direction, setting traps in groups where fox, wolf, or coyote came regularly, rather than setting the same number of traps haphazardly. Making only the two simple sets that were easily and quickly made: In fact, just using good common-sense tactics. The greatest factor in trapping is the ability to use common sense and sensible tactics.
In this book I do not describe many of the various sets such as the spring or water set, the knoll set, chaff set, and dozens of other sets which I have found impractical. The knoll or water set may be O.K., although I have never found them so; but even if they were, there are few places in America where sufficient water sets could be made, and few trappers who could spare the time to build mounds or chaff sets for a sufficient number of traps to make trapping pay a good salary.
In winter trapping there is no one set, or no one rule, that one can follow exclusively; therefore I have written the last chapter of this book with the thought in mind that it will teach the readers to get out and run out a line, preferably in a circle, and through a good area for fox or whatever they wish to trap, and as they follow the line time after time, they will find many places where many likely sets can be made in a dozen and one types of sets. Observation and preparation are of greatest value to successfully operate a winter trap line.
I speak of using hollow knots in my blind scent set; the hollow knot idea is good, simply because hollow knots look natural, they make the set visible; the lure can be placed inside the knot where it is protected from rain.
Imitation hollow knots, or scent plugs to resemble knots can be made from 8-inch pieces of two-inch square hemlock, sharpened at one end, and a hole drilled in the other; the scent is placed in the hole or in a bottle that is placed in the hole: The tiny one-fourth ounce bottles for these plugs can be purchased at any drug store.
Scent plugs should be boiled in trap dye, or allowed to become weather beaten, before using, the plug should be rounded off somewhat, not used square.
When one gathers natural urine from the snow to use as a lure, always use in a different area than from where gathered.
For example, say you are trapping fox or coyote in two areas, possibly one a few miles east of your home, the other possibly several miles north of home: The urine gathered from the foxes or coyotes east of your home should be used for those north, and the urine gathered from those to the north should be used in trapping those to the east. Urine from strange animals arouses ten times the interest as does that from the animal itself.
That is proven by the interest a dog shows for the wheels of a strange car in which strange dogs have urinated. This same applies to the use of a freshly skinned carcass; one can have considerable success by hiding a fresh carcass of a fox, wolf, bobcat, or coyote in the center of a group of sets.
When a carcass is used thus, care should be taken when pelting, that human or other odors do not get on the carcass. A fresh bobcat carcass hidden by a road through a swap and a trap or two set each way from it, in the road, will get many cats.
In this book I refer more to coyote than to fox; this is because the coyote is much more intelligent and any set that gets a coyote will most certainly get the fox. There is no such thing as a trap shy fox or coyote until dirty sets and crude methods teach them to be so. Occasionally I have a customer kick on my lures or methods, saying neither is worth a dang; well brother trapper, I used them for years and they sure do work: If those guys blamed themselves, instead of my lures and methods, then corrected their faults, they would soon become expert trappers.
Since the coming of the CCC camps and federal forest many heretofore inaccessible areas have been opened to travel by automobile so now one may drive in an hour or two to a district that may have taken a day or two by foot or canoe.
That being true in most states I will confine this chapter to prospecting for an auto trap line.
First need is several good maps showing lakes, streams and all passable roads and trails.
Next try and locate an area where you think coyote, fox and wolf should be plentiful, this is usually along the shores of the great lakes or at the head of streams where there are many small streams and plenty of swamps as those are the places coyote and wolf choose for their dens, a place where food, cover and water are plentiful.
For early fall trapping I choose the more open country such as blueberry, jack-pine, and cherry plains.
Coyotes eat blueberries and pin cherries and love the open country and there they are found in early fall.
Later in the fall after the frosts and the ferns are down the coyote feed in heavier cover, along edges of swamps, ridges, and hills later moving to the heavy swamps country where rabbits are plentiful and where the deer are yarded.
After you have decided on an area make several trips through it before starting to trap, look for signs and locate all side roads so you can have the route all planned in advance.
Plan your trap line to run in a circle so it is not necessary to cover the same road twice, also plan your line to run through a village where you can procure gas and other supplies.
If bounty trapping, include a village or city in your circle so you can present your predators for bounty with the minimum amount of driving and loss time.
When driving through grassy or heavy soil areas, one must check all old roads, trails, ridges, and grades for sign; it is much more difficult than trapping in a sand country as tracks are difficult to see and one must look mostly for droppings or signs of scratching at or near scent posts.
In sand country it is less difficult as one can see the tracks and determine more closely the number of animals crossing there.
Large open ridges in swamps, where the plains meet the swamp and each side of large streams where the road crossed then are likely places to look.
While driving through country where the soil is heavy or terrain is grassy, I drive slowly looking for old roads, grades, ridges, or openings and when one is found I get out of the car and walk down them watching very closely for droppings, scratchings, and if little ant holes are found I often crawl on my hands and knees looking for a toe track in one of them.
If trapping coyote or wolf and tracks or droppings of different size or age are found that would signify that both young and fully grown coyote or wolf were passing there; if of various ages it would tell that they had passed there at different times or if in sandy country the tracks show that they have passed through or played there several different nights, I set traps as follows:
If I decide that only one animal is using that trail or crossing, I set two traps, but if signs show a litter is traveling there, I set from eight to twelve traps, all close together.
The setting of traps in groups is one of the most important factors in trapping coyote or wolf and is one most unknown to trappers.
The idea of group sets is very logical and is simply that both coyote and wolf run in packs of from five to a dozen or more and with a dozen traps set one is much likely to catch the first one; after catching the first one the rest will stay around, running back and forth and waiting for the trapped one; sometimes it appears they think the trapped animal is playing when it is jumping and yipping; this I know to be a fact as I have caught a coyote in a single trap where the others would run back and forth; the road or sand being covered with tracks for 100 yards around and sometimes where the one was caught would be hair scattered for yards around where apparently they had jumped on it nipping and wrestling it; and where I have had group sets of eight to a dozen traps I have several times had from four to six coyotes at one time, all within 50 yards of each other; at one time I had six coyotes, five of which I could see from my car.
After locating a good crossing or playground, I then drive fast for several miles before looking for another litter as one very seldom finds two litters of coyote or wolf within four of five miles of each other.
When setting a group of traps I mark each group with some tree, large stump, stub or in some way and then set the exact location of each trap down in a small book so not to forget how many sets or where they are; this saves much time when tending the traps. When a trap is pulled mark it off on the book.
TRAPS, GRAPPLES, STAKES, CLOGS
The matter of preference in traps is merely a matter of what you are used to or what you are sour on, personally I have used all makes and kinds.
My three favorite traps for coyote are not made anymore; they were the No. three easy set squares grip; No. 34 diamond with offset jaws and the 3 ½ Newhouse single spring.
For wolf there is only one real wolf trap; it is the 4 ½ Newhouse; the next best is the No. 4 Newhouse, but they are too small for large wolf, too often part of their foot is on the jaw and only one toe is caught.
For fox any No. 3 is O.K.; I prefer the No. 3 Oneida jump for fox. For trap fastenings I prefer the two-prong steel grapple hook; occasionally one finds a spot where a grapple is not just the proper fastening, so there I prefer the swivel top steel picket pin.
If wood stakes are used, use hardwood stakes; cut them and let them get thoroughly dried, then flatten two sides so they won’t turn in the ground, round off the top and wire it using two strands of telephone wire about one inch from the top to prevent its splitting when being driven; fasten trap in center of stake so if it should be pulled out it will act as a clog.
When using stakes, the shorter the chain the better as they cannot jump around as much but for steel grapples one must use at least a four-foot chain for fox, coyote, or cat; five is better; and for wolf use a six-to-eight-foot chain.
If you make your own steel grapples as I do the following size iron and grapple should be used:
For fox use 3/8-inch round iron bars, cut in 20-inch length which makes a grapple with about six inch spread and 6 ½ inch shank.
For coyote use 7/16 round bar, cut in two-foot length which makes a grapple with about seven inch spread and eight-inch shank.
For timber wolf use 30-inch piece of ½ inch bar which makes grapple with about eight or nine inch spread and ten-inch shank.
A two-foot length of iron is about 26 inches when the points are sharpened by forge and anvil.
When making grapples the proper way is to first sharpen both ends of the iron bar, sharpen quite sharp but not too sharp or pieces of bark or wood may stick to them when being dragged and prevent their digging in; after sharpening them one should then bend the hook on each end; this may be done cold, shape the hooks and then bend to shape of a letter U while cold, next slip the chain over the hook, then heat the center of the bar until red and soft, bend down until the hooks pass each other, lay on anvil and slide the chain in place, hammer the shank until they are straight and tightly together being sure to leave a small eye in the bend so the chain works freely; next lay flat on anvil and hammer until the shank and both hooks are perfectly lined up or so they lay perfectly flat; next bend about two inches of each point, so one is up and the other is down; bend so they will dig in, if not bend enough they will not dig; if too much, they will only scratch the surface of the ground; the shape of the grapple is very important, a small heavy grapple is much better than a large one made from lighter material and they dig in better; they should be shaped exactly like two fish hooks fastened back to back.
New traps, very rusty or dirty traps, and traps scented by skunk, porcupine, oil, or grease must be treated as follows to remove the odors.
Place traps in vessel deep enough that traps can be covered with at least four inches of water and boil at least two hours in the following solution: one can of lye or two quarts of hardwood ashes to each five gallons of water.
When boiling my traps, I would boil about two hours in the above solution then let set over night and in the morning again bring to a boil and boil one hour.
After traps are boiled pour the water off to avoid removing the traps through the film of oil, other material, etc. that has come to the top. Never let the water boil down until the traps are exposed. After pouring off the water wash the traps thoroughly in clean water to remove the lye and loosened rust and again treat thus: in the bottom of your boiler place the proper quantity of any of the following barks: soft maple, oak, tag alder, or hemlock; I would say it takes a bundle of two-foot strips four inches in diameter to a dozen traps, but this can best be learned by experience. On top of the bark place the traps, they hold the bark down and then add enough clean water to cover the traps four inches; boil for two hours and let traps set in the solution over night; in the morning bring to boil and boil two hours more; then hook the traps from the solution while boiling and hang them up in the air where they will dry quickly; the solution should be strong enough to turn the traps a blue black color; however new shiny traps will not take the color the first time unless they have first been allowed to rust slightly.
Extension chains, steel stakes and grapples must be treated same as traps and remember the deodorizing and treating of traps is very, very important; do not slight the job.
For winter use traps should be treated as just told, and if one wishes one may then wax them to help prevent their rusting or freezing.
To wax traps do as follows: place a few traps at a time in the oven and leave them there until they are as hot as can be held with canvas gloves; do not let them get hot enough to take the temper from the springs; have a nail or some object between the jaws, so they are open a little.
With a new clean paint brush, paint the entire trap and chain with beeswax that is smoking hot; paint rapidly and with as thin and even a coat as possible; when painted give the trap a quick shake to throw off any drops of surplus wax and hang on the air. When traps are cool, remove the wax from the trap dog and from the tip of the trigger to prevent their springing too easily.
After traps are once thoroughly cleaned and treated, keep them in a clean airy place and in handling, packing, or transporting keep them as free from odor as possible.
If trap is dirtied from contact with the car or from handling with bare hands or bloody from catching fox, coyote rabbit, etc., it is necessary to boil them again; boiling in the bark solution is all that is required unless dirtied by oil, grease, skunk, or porcupine.
Never reset a dirty, bloody trap; replace with a clean one.
Trapline clothing is a matter of choice, but there are a few important factors one should consider.
First, one should be dressed comfortably, warm in winter, cool in summer; however, I would not consider trapping unless wearing breeches, high top shoes, and a long sleeve shirt. Why: well, because the bottoms of trousers get wet, gather odors, etc., then rub against the weeds and bushes when visiting the traps; and if one wears short sleeves one’s arms are sure to touch brush or shrubs, and leave one’s body odor.
My choice for summer and fall is a pair of cotton breeches, long sleeve cotton shirt and a pair of light weight (officer’s dress) high top shoes in 16- or 18-inch height.
Never grease the shoes you use in the summer; if one does grease them use only natural grease such as lard or tallow; greasing makes the shoes warmer in summer, colder in winter, and are sure to leave odors along the trap line.
Always wear clean clothing; if possible, have clothing especially for the trap line; do not wear the same clothes while trapping that you wear in the barn, garage or while driving the tractor, etc. these instructions of course refer to trapping fox, coyote and wolf and do not apply to trapping muskrat, skunk, etc.
Next is the two most important items in trapping clothing; they are gloves and shoe rubbers. For gloves I have decided that good horsehide gloves are the best; have two pair, so when returning from the trap line, one pair may be washed in clean, warm water and hung in the air to dry and air out while the other pair is being worn.
Shoe rubbers, yes, shoe rubbers, either the regular type or the low zipper overshoes; important, believe me they are much more than important; get them large enough to slip off and on easily and wash them; wash both the rubbers and the gloves thoroughly in warm, soapy water; wash thoroughly, then wash again and again, in clean water and finally wash in clean, cold water to be sure every bit of soap smell is washed away; then hang in the sun and air a day or two to dry out.
Several years ago I gave personal trapping instructions to trappers; I charged them $50 for a week’s instructions; and later I was employed in supervisory capacity by the State of Michigan, to instruct trappers in the art of taking predator bear, fox, coyote, and cat; of the scores of trappers I instructed, I think not over 10 percent really listened to what I told them; very few would bother to wear shoe rubbers and the cost was only about $0.75 per pair; those who did listen became some of Michigan’s outstanding coyote trappers; those who did not would catch from two to ten coyote a year and some of them caught none.
For example, let’s picture a dumb trapper who does not wear shoe rubbers; he wakes up in the morning, puts on a pair of rubber footwear, which he contends is “Just as good.” Then he goes in the kitchen for breakfast, steps in some vinegar, the good woman has spilled; thence to the toilet and steps in this and that; then to the garage and walks through the spilled oil and grease; thence the gas station for gas and walks in some nice gasoline, battery acid and antifreeze. Then to the, oh, what’s the use if you are too dumb to get what I mean you are too dumb to trap.
Anyway, the trapper we pictured leaves a nice trap line, smelling of vinegar, gas, oil, grease, etc. and cussed the scent and the instructor for his failures.
Now about the rubbers and gloves, always wear the gloves when handling clean traps, never when handling dirty traps or trapped animals.
When you are at the place you intend setting a trap or tending one, get out of the car and walk back from the road before putting on the rubbers; put on the gloves first, then the rubbers; never wear the rubbers in the road or when crossing the road as you may step in some oil or gas that has leaked from some car; always walk back from the road several yards before putting them on as possibly someone has stopped there for a certain purpose and you may step in some odor; remove the rubbers before you cross the road or return to it.
Wash the rubbers quite often using clean warm water to remove any odor that they may have picked up while being worn. Have a clean handbag for the gloves, rubbers, and trap settings equipment.
Canvas kneeling pad as mentioned in trapping equipment should be boiled in soapy water and again in clean water, then washed and rinsed in clean water; rubber sheet should be washed in warm soapy water, then rinsed thoroughly and sewed to the canvas after the canvas has been boiled and washed.
Wool gloves may be used in winter but should be washed in warm water each night before using and leather top rubbers cleaned and kept outside the house may be used for winter; do not wear except when on the trap line.
Summer and fall trapping do not require much equipment, especially when steel grapples are used; if stakes are used a light single bit axe or hatchet is necessary.
For setting traps one must have a kneeling pad; this is a pad about 2 or 2 ½ feet wide and 3 to 4 feet long, it is made by sewing a rubber sheet of same size to a piece of canvas; the rubber is to prevent sweat from one’s knees soaking through and the canvas to protect the rubber sheet, always kneel on the rubber sheet side. This pad is also used to carry the surplus sand and sod away from the set. It is absolutely necessary for dry sets but is not used in deep snow trapping.
For setting, a good garden trowel with eight-inch handle, an extra heavy steel bread mixing spoon about 18 inches long and a good pliers for repairing traps.
The spoon is used in the “Old Indian” or dirt hole set; the trowel in making the blind, or “Blind scent” set.
A good handbag that costs only about $1.50 is excellent for carrying spoon, trowel, pliers, gloves, rubbers, and kneeling pad. A small pocket of rubberized material should be sewed to the side of it for a place in which to carry scent. Always carry two or three bottles of each kind of scent so if one is lost or mislaid you will have another, and the day will not be ruined. Take every precaution to prevent foreign odors at the set. Snow trapping requires more equipment. One should have snowshoes, toboggan, pack basket; and for setting a wooded spoon which is made from light wood. The spoon is shaped the same as a tablespoon; it should be at least 15 inches long and have handle about eight inches long. This spoon is used in carrying snow to cover traps and one’s tracks and for throwing snow over the set after it is completed; with it one can throw light snow above the set, and it will settle over the set like a natural snowfall. The back should be smooth and rounded like a spoon and it is used in blotting out one’s tracks and making the snow smooth so it can be easily covered by throwing snow above and letting it settle to blot out the smoothness. The wooden spoon must be waxed with hot beeswax or paraffin; if not waxed it will get wet and the snow will stick to it. The next snow set tool is a paddle to set traps with. This should be made with an eight-foot handle; the handle should be the butt end of a cane fishpole, as they are very light; the paddle on the end is made from a piece of plywood about seven by ten inches and is fastened to the cane handle with wire.
At each side of the paddle and an inch from the end, drive a small nail through the paddle; then cut off so the nail protrudes only about ¼ inch; this is to keep trap from sliding off the paddle. About one foot from the paddle drive a nail in the side of the handle, cut off the nail head and let it protrude one inch; this is to hook the trap chain on so the clog or grapple will not drag in the snow.
This paddle is used to make sets at natural scent posts, in trails, etc. after a little practice one can keep back eight feet from the spot chosen for a set and make a perfect set with little more time and effort than if setting by hand. Place the trap on the paddle after making trap bed and place the trap with the paddle.
DO AND DO NOTS
It is quite often the little mistakes or failing to do the little things which are important that cause failures on the trap line. Read this chapter and remember it.
Do not get scent on the traps; to do so will educate the animals to become trap diggers; also, small animals will dig for the scent and uncover the traps.
Do not use dirty wire or nails to fasten a clean trap.
Do not carry nails, trap tags, etc. in your pants or shirt pocket.
Do not have loose tobacco, matches in your pocket to fall out when you stoop to set or cover a trap.
Do not spit, smoke, etc. in vicinity of the trap.
Do not set traps just anywhere; pick the proper location.
Do not walk down sandy trails, roads, etc. and leave footprints for the animals to see.
Do not slight even one set; that may be THE one.
Do not wear canvas gloves, sweat will soak through them.
Do not set traps on a hot day; one sweats too much.
Do not set or visit traps after 3 hours before dark or one’s body odor will be in the vicinity of traps when animals start moving.
Do not wear short gloves, one’s bare wrist may touch grass or weeds near the set.
Do not wear the same footwear while setting or tending traps that you wore while driving the car; the pedals may be dirty.
Don’t open gas tank, check oil, unless you wash hands afterwards.
Do not use mosquito dope when trapping; it may get on your traps or gloves.
Do not try those high pressure sure shot sets.
Do wear clean gloves and footwear.
Do wear clean clothes.
Always brush out all tracks within 20 feet or more of set.
Always keep traps back at least 20 feet or more from baits.
Always brush out signs of set when you remove the trap; the scent is still there, and a coyote may stop there the first night and become wise to the scent from the sign and tracks left when pulling the trap.
Always mark each group of sets by one marker and each individual set by a marker; write them down in a book to avoid tramping around looking for them.
Always prepare the trails, old roads, ridges for winter trail or bait trail sets in early fall.
Always have your coyote, fox or wolf litters, crossings, etc. located before starting to set traps.
Always make all possible preparations long enough before you start setting traps so that any trails you may have narrowed or guide sticks you may have placed, have time to look old and natural.
Always be sure your set looks natural.
Always make simple common-sense sets, forget those scientific, high pressure, sure shot sets those trappers write about.
Always carry a good compass; always believe the compass.
Always carry matches and carry in waterproof match box.
Always make a perfect set or none at all; do not fuss around; make a perfect set with as little time and monkey work as possible.
Always believe what I write in this book; it is the truth.
In this chapter I will give you the exact formula of the two scents that hundreds of trappers swear is the world’s best. I really think it is unbelievably good. It is what I and my brothers used and exactly what I sold for several years.
First, how to prepare the base.
Grind together equal parts of any fish and mutton liver, place in a clean container and let set from spring to the next spring or one full year.
Place in another clean container equal parts of Lawyer (Burbot) livers and water. The lawyer livers may be procured from any commercial fisherman; let set until the oil rises to the top; the water helps cause the oil to raise. Drain off only the pure oil, not the juice, just the dark oil.
Drain off the thin juice from the rotten fish and mutton liver keeping only the thick portion.
The formula is as follows:
50% thick rotted fish and mutton liver.
20% lawyer liver oil
3% ground beaver castor.
3% glycerine tincture Abyssinian civet musk.
6% glycerine tincture genuine Siberian musk.
6% ground Tonquin musk pods.
12% ground fresh muskrat musk.
After the rotted base has set one year, place in a keg or jar; put first the civet and Siberian musk in the lawyer liver oil and stir, stir, stir until thoroughly mixed, then add the Tonquin and stir again, then add the castor and stir, then the muskrat musk and again stir thoroughly; be sure and stir each in very thoroughly, then add it all to the rotten fish and liver base and stir very thoroughly.
After this is all stirred together set it in the sun being sure the top is covered tightly with a piece of canvas, then wax paper, then canvas, so there is no possibility of maggots getting in it. Maggots will spoil the scent. Set in the hot sun for a month stirring twice a week.
Next bury in the ground taking care no earth gets in the scent and leave there two months, stirring once a week. Any mold that forms on top of the scent, stir into the scent.
That is my secret formula, none better, few if any as good.
Here is my secret “Urine Gland” scent formula.
1-pint pure high-quality urine.
4 ounces pure glycerine.
3 large fresh droppings.
Anal glands and leg glands from four animals.
1/8 oz. fluid asafoetida.
One ounce finely pulverized quite fresh beaver castor.
The contents of one gallbladder.
20 grains corrosive sublimate.
Put in a clean bottle, set where warm two days, set where cool one week, strain through thick cloth, set where cool one month, cork tightly and it is ready for use.
For fox use glands, etc. from fox; for wolf, use glands, etc. from wolf; for coyote use glands, urine, etc. from coyote; urine must be from adult animals and not from pups.
The above is my secret “Urine-Gland” scent formula.
There are no great secrets in successful trapping as one so often hears about.
One so often hears the unsuccessful trapper complaining about his bad luck and small catches. Bad luck nothing. It is either laziness, thoughtlessness, carelessness, or a lack of knowledge of trapping. Luck only enters the picture when one is unfortunate enough to have traps sprung by other animals, broken trap springs or chains or such luck if any or when the animal visits the set. Inability to catch the animal is not bad luck, it is usually lack of knowledge of trapping.
In this book I am doing my very honest best to try and teach you how to trap. I want you to be successful and if you are successful, I wish you to spread the good word around.
Now about those secrets. They are not secrets, they are just good common-sense tactics, just old plain horse sense and I think when you read them you will agree.
After reading this book thoroughly and not skipping through it haphazardly you too can catch wolf, coyote, or fox if you did as you are told and believe what I have written. I am not writing this book just to see how many lies I can tell but to teach trapping. Believe me, it is simple when you know how, and this book tells how. I know one trapper with whom I spent three days instructing him in the right way to trap. I made several sets and told him honestly all the so-called secrets; I sold him some scent, exactly the same as I used, the sets and scent were exactly the same as I used to catch 14 coyote in one day in 61 traps, exactly the same as I used to catch eight fox the first night in 25 traps, and yet about a month later I got a letter from him saying, “Dear Mr. Lenon, I have taken your instructions and bought your scents and I have not yet caught a coyote. Now Mr. Lenon, I am not kicking but tell me, how much will you charge me to tell me the secrets to trapping and how much for some scent like you use?”
Wasn’t that a dandy? Well, I remember the first day I went to instruct him he was still in bed at 9:30 a.m., so I wrote back and said, “Mr. Trapper, the charges for the information you want I will gladly give you free; the secret is to get out of bed before 9:30 a.m. and the scent I use is scarce among trappers, it is not scent, it is common-sense.”
I tell you this so you will not get the same crazy idea.
Now for those so-called secrets to successful trapping, here they are. A combination of scores of minor factors which combined make three major factors; the three major factors combined make common-sense.
Major factor number one, Location.
Major factor number two, Cleanliness.
Major factor number three, Naturalness.
Possibly I should add the proper lure or bait but that, is not too important if the other three factors are remembered. I will now break the three major factors down into the minor factors of which they are comprised; each of these minor factors are not too important if only one is forgotten, but together they spell failure or unbelievably good success.
Location should be divided into several parts; first the location of trapping activities and the season one traps.
When choosing the location of the general trapping, one must choose an area where the animals to be trapped are plentiful. For instance, if one is going to trap coyote during August, September and the first part of October one should choose the location where they range then. That usually is through the cherry and jack-pine plains where it is open country and both cherries and berries are found. Coyotes eat both blueberries and cherries.
If trapping coyote in winter one should trap near deer yards where both deer and rabbits are found.
If trapping fox in November, they are usually found in back fields or grassy plains where mice are abundant and so it is.
If one is moving into a new area and wishes to trap there the year around, one should choose an area that has the right type of cover and topography for year around food and range for the animal one expects to trap.
In the chapters on wolf, coyote, and fox I will try and explain some of their habits which should be of great help in choosing the proper trapping area.
LOCATION OF EACH GROUP OF SETS
As I have said previously the setting of traps in groups to catch animals that travel in groups is one of my greatest so-called secrets. However, it is not a secret, it is common-sense.
My wife once set 10 traps in a field where coyotes came to play and howl, three days later she had four coyotes; my son, age 17, set seven traps in a big sand pit where the coyotes came to play each night and two days later had four coyotes.
Coyote, wolf, and fox all have regular travel routes. These travel routes are where they pass through from one feeding range to another or from a feeding rang to a hill, field, or beach, etc. where they play and howl. Fox do not howl but they do play and do have their regular routes.
These routes may be down an old road or railroad grade, across a large swamp, on an old road or ridge, along a swamp edge where plains meet the swamp or just through the most open and driest route in their range, or it may be from one woods to another across a field at its narrowest point.
Along these travel routes are the places for the group of sets or if one can find the place where they come to howl or play it is better yet.
They usually have a hill, field, or large sand pit or beach for their playground and there are many ways to locate this place other than by tracks. For example, two of you go to an area where you have heard coyote, one to go, say east of this area, and the other go to the south; when the coyotes howl each of you take a compass shot on them and later comparing these compass directions you have a cross shot on them; where these lines cross is where the coyotes were. Another way is to buy a good bicycle siren, go to an area just before dusk, and race the motor of your car while the other holds the siren on the fan belt, hold it there ten seconds, shut off motor and listen. If the coyotes answer, and they will if they hear it, take a compass shot on them; drive a mile or two and try again, if they answer you will have a cross shot.
Now after you have located the playground or the travel route and are sure you have the proper location; the next thing is the proper location of each set in the group. This is very important.
LOCATION OF EACH SET
Whenever possible locate an opening for each set or group of sets. This is very important for the following reasons:
The wind blows more steadily in the same direction in open country; this you can prove by building a small fire; in the woods, it blows all directions; in the open in one direction as the animal smells the scent it follows it to the trap. It is impossible for them to do so if the wind current is not steady.
Second, when traps are set in the open, one’s body odor disperse more quickly and after rains the set dries out faster.
Third, fox, coyote, and wolf usually look these openings over and if the set is visible as instructed later, will be surer to see it.
When, if possible, you have found this open area, the next steps to choose the proper location for each individual set.
The first factor to consider is the prevailing wind direction in evenings and during that season of the year. Usually in summer the prevailing wind is from the south and west, later in the fall from the north and west. After you have decided what the prevailing wind direction is, choose your sets upwind from the crossing, say if you are setting along a trail running north and south and the wind prevails from the west, then set your traps on the west side of the trail so the wind will carry the scent stream across the trail where it can be picked up by the animal’s keen nose and followed to the set.
Always set the trap as close as possible to the travel route as it is much likely to be smelled and followed up if only five feet than if 50 feet.
The next step is to choose a level spot for your trap; all traps must be set where they are approached over level ground; never uphill or downhill, always level.
Next is the last few steps of the animal’s approach; whenever possible have the trap set in a spot of sand; sand is the best; if no sand then over a thoroughly rotted wood spot or over short grass; never over dry leaves, tall grass, stones, weeds, or rough ground.
Make each set where the animal has clear visibility as it approaches. This is not as important for fox as wolf or coyote but is very, very important for them; or in other words never set a trap at the base of a high bank, bushy tree, or large stump too high for them to see over. Many times, I have had coyote approach to within a foot or two of a set at base of a large stump, then circle the stump, come close again possibly doing this three or four times and then leaving to become caught in a trap a short distance from there that was set in the open. Sometimes they are caught but best to set in openings.
If you have ever seen coyotes or wolves eating, then you will understand why, invariably before lowering their heads to take a bite they give a good look around. I have watched them often. Apparently, they have the same instinct to take a last look around before sniffing the scent, and the high stump, bank or whatever it may be prevents them doing so and makes them nervous or jittery.
Never try and crowd one into the trap; to plant weeds or brush on each side of the trap only makes them scary and eventually trap wise. It is better to have them miss the trap the first two visits and get them the third than to scare them away and maybe never get them. Don’t get discouraged if they miss the trap; when you get them a few inches from the trap you are on the way to success as missing that little trap pan is possibly bad luck or inexperience in just where the trap should be in relation to the scent.
Some time ago I mentioned having each set visible; be sure and have it visible, the farther it can be seen the better; it is very important. Many tenth-rate trappers with a few dollars and a lot of wind have written trapping books and say to hide the scent; that is the most foolish, silliest, and incorrect way one could possibly make a set. When making a blind scent set always put the scent on some projection. I prefer using hollow knots five or eight inches long and from two to four inches in diameter or use a tiny hollow knot at a bunch of grass, or place scent on the end of a log or tiny stump, anything so it is visible and on some projection. Why, you say? Well, if you ever saw a dog or tracked a wolf, coyote, or fox you surely know that it is one of their strongest instincts to urinate on such projections; never do they establish a scent post on bare ground; always on a bunch of grass, knot, tiny tree, etc. and just as important is it if the set is upwind and they get a sniff of it their first instinct is to look for the projection the scent is on, just the same as when they smell urine from their kind they always look for the scent post.
When smelling the scent and seeing the projection they are not only very much more likely to visit it but more important is that by knowing exactly where to go they approach the trap sight from downwind and are far more likely to step on the trap pan while if the scent was hidden they would have to hunt for it and are quite likely to walk pass and approach from the side or rear and miss the trap pan by several inches. To miss the pan one hundredth of an inch means no catch just as much as to miss it a rod.
In the dirt hole set it is the hole that is visible and apparently, they think the odor comes from the hole.
I have experimented with dogs on both the hole set and the scent-post set and they will invariably trot straight to the hole or projection but where the scent was hidden were likely to approach from any side. In experiments where I placed the scent two or three feet to the side of a projection the dog would always trot up to the projection, sniff at it several times apparently puzzled, then hunt around and finally locate the scent; after locating the scent it would invariably go to the projection and urinate on it.
These instructions about making the set visible apply, of course, to sets where scent or small pieces of bait are used and most certainly do not apply to trail sets, etc.
I do not recommend the use of natural urine scent at a hole set although a drop or two used with a small bait act as a fear allay.
The addition of a tiny bit of skunk musk to any rotten base scent just enough to give the slightest skunk odor will also act as a fear allay at the hole set although it is not at all necessary for if one’s traps, gloves, clothes, etc. are clean there is no reason for fear. Never leave freshly broken twigs, freshly turned stones or crushed grass in front of a set; crushed grass or weeds soon turn brown and are very conspicuous. Again, I say, just use good common-sense, if it doesn’t look right to you, it won’t look right to the animal.
Last the set must look natural, if a hole set the hole must resemble one dug by another animal, if a small hole it should look like a gopher hole, if larger like a hole dug by squirrel, woodchuck, etc.
Where a hallow knot is used as I prefer to use them, always place with the weather-stained part up, never with the wet or bright side up; if stones are used to guide the animal always put the same side up as before you used them; don’t put the bottom side up; if a tiny twig or branch is used for a guide or stepping stick be sure no fresh breaks show.
For lures I recognize only four kinds, the musk scent that arouses the passions or passion scent, the scent that gives the urge to urinate such as urine and glands, the curiosity scent that arouses their curiosity, and bait. When bait is used at the trap one should use a small piece and be sure it is from wild animals native to the area; there is one exception, it is fish; fish appeals to all animals regardless if no water within miles, but for meat bait I would never use pork, bear, horse, etc. except at feeding stations where large baits are used and never pork and bear anywhere; it is much more successful for small baits used as scent is used, to be of muskrat, woodchuck, rabbit or venison, if legal to use. Again, I will say and to encourage you to think for yourself just think over what I have written; is it not just plain old-fashioned common-sense? Certainly, nothing startling, no great secrets, just the common-sense knowledge I have learned through 35 years of successful trapping and continuous study and experimenting.
When setting traps in warm warmer weather when the ground does not freeze no trap bedding is used other than sand; however, I want to stress that it is important that trap should be set a little below the level of the surroundings, not much but probably one-quarter inch. There are several reasons; some of them are, that when the trap is slightly lower the animal throws more weight on that foot and is caught higher; another that wind will not blow the covering off or the rain will not wash them bare so often, etc. For trap pads one can use one’s own choice; if my traps are all of one size and make I prefer using canvass pads, each of them the same size and one does not have to hunt for the fit; the canvas is torn just the right width to fit inside the jaws lengthwise and about three inches longer than the spread of the trap; one end to be tucked under the solid jaw and to allow the dog to flip up through the split when the trap is sprung; the other side is left solid and tucked under the loose jaw.
Where traps are of various size and make and for winter, I prefer using wax paper of double thickness. I tear one side for the solid jaw same as I do canvass.
Wax paper is also preferable for snow trapping although sheep wool can be used and is satisfactory. To use, just put a loose ball of wool under the pan to keep out the snow when it falls; be very sure though, that you get wool from sheep that have not been dipped in dope to kill ticks or wool that has been treated to make it moth proof.
For early fall when there are occasional light freezes one can overcome traps freezing down somewhat by bedding the trap in three inches of spruce or balsam needles that have been gathered in summer and dried in the sun, then cover the entire trap with one thickness of wax paper and then about one-fourth inch of needles finished by covering the needles with sand that has been dried during the summer.
In real cold weather where there is no snow like in southern Michigan one can often set traps in the sand that has frozen dry, or one can set the traps and cover with sand that has been thoroughly dried during summer by placing in clean bags and hanging in the sun for weeks.
To my notion no anti-freeze is of much value; however here is a covering that can be used if traps are waxed so they will not rust:
Dry out thoroughly 20 pounds of sand; add three pounds of calcium chloride and mix thoroughly; bed trap in a deep bed of needles and cover with a good covering of the mixture.
Another is to bed the traps in needles, cover with wax paper then with one-half inch of dry sand, spray until thoroughly wet with half glycerine and half water then just enough dry sand to cover the wet look caused by the glycerine.
Next, I will try and explain a set of my own experience. It works quite well and is snow, rain, sleet, and freeze proof. It can be made in the fall and will work all winter. The principal of this set is simply that one used the heat from the earth to keep the trap from freezing; it will not work unless under a few inches of snow.
Here is how it is made:
Choose a place where fox and coyote feed and pass near to during the winter, then chose a place for the set where the sun will not thaw the snow, where the snow will not drift too deeply and where the set will not become covered with water when it thaws. After finding the logical place dig a hole 15 inches in diameter and 18 inches deep in the side of a knoll or hill, preferably where there is timber to prevent drifting and thawing. Dig this hole at a 45-degree angle.
In the bottom of the hole put the bait, a muskrat, half skunk, or bait of that size is required. With a forked branch about six inches long pin the bait firmly to the upper side of the bottom of the hole, then place some sand below the bait and set the trap with top part covering a little of the bait and with bottom resting on lower side of bottom of hole; set the trap so it is setting on a 45-degree angle with the face of trap facing the mouth of the hole; a number three or four Oneida jump with single spring is best; have spring to top, next place a loose ball of wool under pan of trap and cover with three-fourth inch of sand. The idea is when the fox or coyote dig for the bait they will hit the pan of the trap and be caught. I have caught many this way; caught one fox by the nose; caught a fox in May in such a set made in November.
After the trap is so set take two small sound twigs about two feet long, lay them across the mouth of the hole putting the bottom ends four inches apart and stick them in the ground so they won’t fall into the hole; leave the top ends loose and six or eight inches apart, then lay crosswise the sticks and hole either quite long grass or ferns whichever is native and cover quite thick say two or three inches, thick enough to keep from freezing until it snows under.
The reason for placing the twigs or sticks and the grass that way is because after the trap is snowed under the fox or coyote will smell the bait and dig through the snow, when it reaches the grass or covering it will slide down the sticks; the sticks being wider apart at the top and not fall into the trap, as the trap is down in the hole a foot or more the animal will then dig and if his foot touches the trap pan, he is caught.
Traps for this set should be waxed as they can be left all winter and as the ground is always damp, they will rust if not waxed.
Traps should be fastened solid outside the hole so if animal is caught it can be seen from a distance; in that way it is not necessary to go within many yards or rods of it until a catch is made.
This set is an excellent one for the trapper who traps only during the better seasons and possibly during winter drives to work with the car; such sets can be made along the road where coyote, cat or fox are known to cross during winter and can be seen from the car. No time is lost, and the set requires no attention all winter unless a catch is made.
It is much better to have all those traps working for you than to have them in the shed.
THE TIMBER WOLF
The timber wolf is the largest of the dog family that is found in America.
There are various species of timber wolf, probably all the same specie except, that years of climate, topography, food abundance, etc., has caused the various colors and sizes. In the far north they have grey, white and black wolves same as here in Michigan we have coyotes from a light grey to yellowish brown and many with considerable black coloring. Timber wolf: like any of the dog family have habits somewhat similar; all species have their travel routes, playground, scent posts, etc. all have very keen noses and both wolf and coyote seem to have reasoning powers or the ability to reason and think like human beings. They are very, very intelligent, few people will believe the truth of their uncanny instincts and intelligence. I could write for hours about the things I have known wolf to do that seem to show the same intelligence and reasoning ability of humans.
Timber wolf, like their name implies, are more likely to be found in the heavier timbered areas. Large tracts of virgin hardwood, hemlock and pine or large swamps with heavy timber and high dry ridges are the most likely types of cover in which to prospect for wolf.
Wolf, like a fox and coyote, have their regular feeding range, travel routes and crossings.
Along old roads, railroad grades, trails and ridges are the favorite travel routes. All such places should be carefully checked for possible sign and are the ideal places for sets.
Laura Lenon Herb Lenon's Wife with a few Michigan Coyotes
Many of the things I have just written about wolf apply to coyote and too fox. However, there is one great difference between coyote and wolf, their choice of habitat.
The timber wolf derives its name from preferring the wild, virgin timber lands, while the coyote or prairie wolf which I think is the more proper name prefers the open country such as plains and deserts, thus the widely known and used name prairie wolf. This has become somewhat confused as the prairie wolf moved north and east to the cut-over lands, they are now often called brush wolf.
I have read the name coyote was used by the Mexicans and Spanish and was first used to mean the wolf was cute, or rather smart or intelligent. Some of the Westerners have written that the Mexicans many years ago would say “The little wolf is pretty cute,” meaning intelligent. This of course may be just talk but I think coyotes were found in the plains and deserts long, long before they were found here in Michigan.
Coyotes have a much more varied diet than wolves. Whereas wolf are primarily meat eaters, coyote eat nearly anything edible, mice, earthworms, grasshoppers, bugs, rabbits, birds, eggs, berries, cherries, deer, apples and even some roots and herbs. This varied diet I think is just another factor to be consider when looking to the history of the coyote, the thought that they are originally of the deserts where food was scarce would-be sufficient cause for their having such a varied diet. Michigan coyote being so much larger than the desert coyote is likely because of generations of better feeding range.
The fox is the smallest of our wildlife dog family. There are several species of fox, the red fox being the most numerous and widely distributed, also have a wide color range from the light yellow to the dark red. I have read that the cross-fox black and silver are but color freaks of the red; in the far North both white and blue fox are found; and in the more Southern States the grey fox in woods grey, swift grey, and kit grey foxes. Occasionally a grey is caught in Michigan. The grey are much less intelligent than the red; their shape is somewhat different and there is some difference in the tracks.
Red foxes are rather intelligent and are nearly as difficult to trap as the coyote.
It is my opinion that wolf and coyote are far, far more intelligent than the fox, but that the fox being such a nervous, cautious animal, they are about as difficult to trap.
I have seen where a fox would stop and run like mad when becoming scared of a new fallen leaf on a fresh fall of snow. Certainly, that shows fear but certainly not intelligence. Foxes have a smaller range than coyote and cover it often. They have their travel routes and sand spots or fields in which they play but not to the extent that coyote do.
Many quite successful trappers of fox are dismal failures in coyote trapping, this I think because they do not consider location as being as important as it is. The fact that a trap set just anywhere in a fox area is more likely to get a fox due to their smaller range leads them to believe they can trap coyote with the same tactics.
I have little to say about the bobcat. If one is trapping fox, wolf, or coyote one can get all the bobcat within miles anyway as they are not suspicious of traps and are as dumb as a skunk. Bobcat feed mostly on meat; it seems they prefer rabbit to any other meat although surely catch and eat many mice, birds, and eggs. I have heard many times of bobcat killing deer and did not believe it until one time I found where a cat had jumped on the back of a deer and rode it until it killed the deer. This was in winter and there were no tracks of men, wolf, or any other animals around. I could see where the cat sneaked up on the deer and jumped it; the deer ran about 75 yards crashing into trees and brush and eventually fell. Its throat was torn to shreds as was one ear. It looked like the cat had the ear in its teeth, one set of claws had dug deeply into the left shoulder while with the other it had torn at the throat until the jugular was torn open, the fresh blood from the throat had thawed a deep hole in the snow, so no doubt the cat had killed it; after killing it, it ate the tongue and lips on one side and left the rest.
Cat frequent the heavier cover types seeming to prefer the dense cedar swamps where rabbits are most numerous. Old roads, grades and ridges in swamps are best bets when prospecting for a cat line, however, they range widely during summer and are quite often caught in the open country. Every trapper should do his best to trap them off as they are surely worse killers than coyote or fox and their fur is of little value.
The sport of finding a large cat in one’s trap is worth the bother of setting an extra trap for them.
MY FAVORITE SETS
In this chapter I will try and explain clearly and in simple terms how I make my favorite sets.
During spring, summer and fall or rather in dirt sets I make but two different sets, the blind scent set and the old Indian set. I make no others as they will catch any and all wolf, coyote, or fox; the old Indian set is just as good as the blind scent. Its fault lies in the fact that once caught in such a set they may be forever shy of such sets, while at the blind set there is nothing to become wise to other than the scent. The other fault of the old Indian set is that when one’s line is infested with trap and fur thieves, they soon learn to locate the sets by the hole made for the set.
Believe me and use only the two sets I use; leave the super-duper high pressure fake sets for the fancy writers.
The old Indian set is used in grassy places and in heavy soil where no sand spots or not enough sand spots can be found. Where one is making a group set of possibly ten sets it is sometime impossible to find that many sand spots, so a mixture of blind scent and old Indian sets are used.
The blind scent set can be made in sand, rotten wood, or snow. It can be made at a regular scent post or made where one puts scent on a projection such as I explained in a previous chapter. I very seldom make a set at a natural scent post on land as one can either establish a scent post with a hollow knot or make the old Indian set where one wishes but in winter I often either establish a scent post by planting a bundle of grass or set traps where they are urinating on a stump, tree, grass or possibly a muskrat house, etc.
After you have located a sand spot you consider ideal, it being close to the travel route, upwind, in the open, etc,. as explained in the chapter “Those Secrets” make the set as follows:
Choose the trap, trap pad and whatever is necessary; put on your clean shoe rubbers and approach the chosen location from the opposite side from which you anticipate the approach of the wolf, coyote, fox or cat whichever you are setting for choose the exact spot where you wish to set the trap, lay the kneeling pad in front or to the side of this spot, step on the pad, lay the trap to the left and set the bag or basket containing tools, scent, etc. to the right side, using the trowel, very carefully, scrape off the bleached dry surface soil, being careful not to mix it with the darker undersoil; place the surface soil to one side where it can be used for finishing the set, then dig a trap bed as near as possible the size and shape of the trap, dig it about six inches deep placing all the soil, stones, roots, etc. on the kneeling pad, then press the grapple down in the hole and coil the trap chain in the hole taking precautions that the chain will not become caught over the point of the grapple when a catch is made, then cover the grapple and chain with about three inches of sand pressing the sand down firmly so the trap will not sag if it rains, then place the trap pressing it down so it sets solid and will not tip if animal should step on the spring or jaws; take out or add sand until the trap pan and jaws are about one inch below the level of the surroundings; be sure the pan sets level with the trap jaws; next place the canvas or wax paper trap pad over the pan and under the jaws as explained in a previous chapter; fill in around the trap jaws and spring with sand and press it firmly then cover the trap with about one-half inch of fine soil. Leave this soil loose and smooth off with a small evergreen branch or turkey feather, then finish the set by lightly brushing or sifting the surface soil which you have placed to one side.
Do this very, very carefully be sure that no different colored sub-soil shows and be sure no brush marks show. When this is completed perfectly, place a good quantity of scent (don’t be stingy with the scent), down inside a hollow knot which you have previously gathered as explained in previous chapter, place a small leaf in the hollow knot to keep out the insects then press the knot firmly in the earth at a 45-degree angle (never lay the knot down or stand it straight up, always place at a 45-degree angle with the open end pointing out over the trap in the direction from which you anticipate the approach of the animal), place this knot so that it is 16 inches back and four inches to left of trap pan for wolf, 14 inches back, three inches to the left for coyote or cat and 12 inches back two inches to left for fox. Always place as above, never place straight back of trap. When knot is satisfactorily placed lay a few small stones, twigs pieces of hardpan or bark or whatever is found near the trap and looks perfectly natural, just each side of the jaws and just in front of the trap for the animal to step over, place them firmly so the wind will not blow them on the trap. Do not overdo it so it does not look natural.
Usually, one can place the trap where a small weed or small bunch of grass is on each side of the trap and quite often one can choose a little point of sand to set trap where the grass or weeds guide the animal over the trap, then it is not necessary to place twigs at the side of trap but just lay a small twig in front of the trap for the animal to step over onto the pan of the trap.
When this is done satisfactorily pick up the kneeling pad by its corners being very careful not to spill any of the sand remaining on it, step back and using an evergreen, brush very carefully, brush out every sign of where you have kneeled on the pad, by turning the brush, preferably a spruce or balsam upside down and just slightly slapping the sand it will completely obliterate the brushing signs and will roughen up the sand a little making tiny holes and pimples in the sand that looks exactly the same as sand looks from the action of wind and rain. As you back away from the set, brush out all tracks if in sand and brush up all crushed grass.
Carry the sand on the kneeling pad away where you are certain it will not be seen and scatter in the woods or grass.
THE OLD INDIAN SET
The old Indian set is a great improvement on the foolishly made dirt hole set as used by many trappers.
Where this set is made along a trail, old road, etc., where possibly there are tall grass ferns or weeds one may kneel on the kneeling pad in the trail and using the sharpened side of one’s trowel cut off the ferns or weeds below the surface; grass can be pulled without tearing up the sod by pulling small handfuls in quick jerks. Pull or cut out a V-shaped place two feet long and 18 inches wide at the front, where set is made in a grass opening pull the grass out for a foot or more in front of the trap bed.
After you locate a suitable spot for the set, see previous chapter on location; approach this spot as described in Blind Scent Set, kneel on the kneeling pad, pull, or cut away grass or weeds if necessary and dig the bed.
Dig the bed as near the size and shape of trap as possible and dig it deep enough to bed the trap as described in the Blind Scent set using the rougher earth and small pieces of sod to bed the trap in and keeping the softest finest earth for covering the trap, bed the trap so it is about one and one-half inches below the surroundings, then place the trap pad or paper over the trap and cover about one-half inch, then starting in the back side of the trap bed and somewhat to the left scoop out a trench or channel about three to five inches long, gradually getting deeper until deep enough to dig a hole; dig the hole as straight back as possible, never straight down but at a 20 to 30 degree angle so the animal will have to come around to trap side to look into the hole; this hole is usually three to four inches in diameter and five to eight inches deep; it may be larger or smaller, the size depends on the quantity of dirt necessary to compete the set; using soil from the kneeling pad or from the hole build two small ridges about two inches high and starting at each side of the mouth of the hole coming back past the trap a few inches and just to each side of the jaws of the trap, have these ridges in a V-shaped and just each side of the trap jaws, these ridges act as a guide, the trap sets about an inch or a little less below the surroundings, thus with the trap low and the ridges on each side the animal steps between them and in the lowest place to peek and smell in the hole. A small twig or blade of grass may be laid across the ridges for the animal to step over onto the trap.
After the set is complete scatter a little sand in front of the set to cover any sign of 5where you pulled or cut the grass but use just a little, then place a good quantity of scent in a tiny hollow knot or on a small piece of bark, etc. and lay it back in the hole a few inches; on the top side of the mouth of the hole place three or four drops more so it can be scented further. Gather up the kneeling pad by its corners being careful not to spill roots, soil, or sod around the set, using an evergreen bough brush up the bruised crushed grass so it does not lay flat and so it looks natural, carry the surplus dirt and sod away and sprinkle where it will not be seen by the animal as it approaches the set.
A little crushed grass, leaves, etc., in front of the set does no harm as apparently the animal thinks it was caused by the animal that dug the hole.
As the scent is down in the hole a few inches have the pan of the trap about 14 inches from mouth of hole for wolf, a foot for coyote, and cat, and about nine inches for fox.
The purpose of digging the channel or trench from the trap bed to the mouth of the hole is to enable one to have the mouth of the hole far enough back from the trap pan.
When this set is completed, the hole should be somewhat to the left of the trap pan, the left ridge should come early straight back while the right ridge would come back at quite an angle so to clear the right jaw of the trap.
I am going to give no other dirt sets; these are the only two I used in the last five years I trapped they are far the best and easiest to make so why explain to you a lot of silly sets which I never used and in years of trapping found not worthwhile. Those trail sets catch lots of deer and porcupine while such sets as the silly knoll set catches lots of foolish trappers.
When trapping in heavy clay soil or gravelly soil one may carry in dry sand to cover the trap with; if sand is carried in to cover the trap sprinkle a little down in the hole to make all look natural.
In the fall when it freezes slightly trap may be bedded in evergreen needles and covered with them and then the set finished with a light coating of sand as explained in a previous chapter.
Be sure and read this from the first page as in previous chapters I have given much valuable information on traps and trap beds, trap covering, location of sets, etc. This was given in one chapter so it would not be necessary to repeat it with each set.
Also, in the chapter on trap beds I have my secret all-winter and all-weather snow, sleet freeze proof set for fox and coyote.
Now we are getting to what is really difficult. As far as catching fox, wolf, or coyote on bare ground that is easy, if you follow my directions for making either the blind scent or old Indian set, you can catch lots of them but when it comes to winter that’s really difficult for any trapper, where there is no snow and the ground freezes dry, one can make blind scent sets in this frozen dry ground or one can dig the trap beds before freezing and later when one sets traps can bed them in sand that one has dried thoroughly during the hot summer months. But when the snow is drifting, thawing, and freezing, or when it rains and the snow freezes, when one’s traps thaw bare or crust forms on, or when one’s traps are buried with two feet of snow, well use the special set of mine, no other works.
My favorite winter snow set and the set I have had much the best success with is the bait trail set for fox and coyote and the scent post set for wolf.
I will leave the bait trail set until last as it requires preparations being made before the snow comes or at least before one starts trapping several days or weeks, therefore I will give other sets first.
THE BLIND SCENT OR SCENT POST SET
The blind scent or scent post is identical, the difference being in that in the blind scent set one plants a little bundle of grass and puts scent on it where the scent post set is one where the wolf, fox or coyote has established their own scent post by urinating on small trees, bunches of grass, small stumps, ends of logs, etc. Other than one planting the grass the sets are made the same. If one is making a scent post always make it in a large opening, on a lake, field, river, etc., where it can be seen for some distance.
When making a scent post choose the proper location, walk to the place, and plant the grass. I use a bundle about five inches in diameter of marsh grass about two feet long. I tie it with clean brown cord, tie it close to the bottom, then about six inches from the bottom and again in the middle. When planting it I choose an opening that the animals are crossing and as most winds are from North or West during winter, I come to this open place from the northwest corner and walk out into the opening about one-quarter to one-third the way across, I plant the grass and then bend over a few blades to the southeast to act as guides. I set the trap on the southeast side back about a foot from the grass as the animal will likely come upwind to the set therefore is most likely to come from the southeast. If I have plenty of traps, I set two, one each side of the blades of grass I have bent over for guides, set them one foot from the grass bundle and six inches from the guides.
These sets I usually make when snowing, but when the snow is cold and dry, I simply chose the proper place for the trap; I then either wrap the entire trap in wax paper which I prefer or place a loose ball of wool under pan of trap; I then press the trap down in the snow about 3 inches and sift snow over it lightly until all is level and the trap is covered two inches; never brush snow over a trap or it will freeze. Always sift the snow from a wooden spoon as described in previous chapter, back away and brush out your tracks with the wooden spoon and as you back up throw light snow above the trap and tracks and let it settle over all signs like a natural snowfall. This will be difficult at first but after a few tries it becomes very easy.
Where the animals are coming to a scent post one can come to it from behind and by studying the tracks one can see the proper place to place the trap. In making this set I use the eight-foot cane pole with paddle on it as previously described. I walk to where I can reach the place then reach out and with the paddle scoop out a bed for the trap; I then put wool under the trap pan, set the trap on the paddle, hook the chain on the nail in the handle then place the trap in the bed by giving the paddle a slight turn and jerk, then with the paddle I press the trap down until it sets level, reaching behind me I scoop up snow with the paddle and sift it over the trap until it looks pretty level, then with my spoon I throw snow above the set and let it settle over all until all looks perfect, by turning the handle, the chain and grapple will slide off the nail in the handle and can be pressed down into the snow. Where animals have their own scent post do not add any other scent of any kind as it will spoil everything.
The UNDER-TRACK SET
The under-track set is exactly what its title implies. It is a trap set under the track of the animal one wishes to trap. Here is how it is made in soft snow and in crusted snow. Quite often when one is prospecting for wolf, coyote, fox, or cat sign one finds where they have been traveling a ridge or through a field and where they enter the woods from the field or where a small stream or low swampy place cuts through the ridge one will find a place where they pass through and each time when passing through step in their tracks from the previous time. I have seen where several have crossed an opening spread out and when reaching a small thicket or swamp would all walk in the same tracks, so it appeared there had been only one passed through
When one finds such a place come to it from the side and if possible where one’s tracks are hidden, press the trap down in the snow about three inches exactly where the track was, the trap may be wrapped in wax paper or one may use wool under the pan; then reach behind you and scoop up soft snow carefully sifting it over the trap until all is level and natural, then using the handle of your spoon make the track back exactly where it was and squarely on the pan of the trap, make the track look as natural as possible; do not use a stepping stick or change the surrounding in any way.
To make this set when the snow is crusted or when sleeting one should dig a hole about 18 inches square back from the track, dig this hole about a foot deep, then using the wooden spoon hollow out under the track, being careful not to disturb the surface and place the trap so the pan sets squarely under the track. This can be determined by looking at the trap through the track. When trap is correctly placed sprinkle a tiny bit of snow through the track onto the trap pan so if the animal should look down it would not see the trap, neither wool or wax paper is needed in this set and the trap will not be affected by sleet or crust as it sets in a pocket in the snow under the track. If the snow crusts over and the animal steps in the track it will spring the trap, the jaws will close on its foot under the crust. After the set is made carefully fill in hole you have dug, do not fill in the pocket where the trap sets, brush out all signs as you back away and throw snow above so it will settle and look natural.
I have caught many fox and coyote in the under-track set.
BLIND TRAIL SET
The blind trail set is a trap set in a trail without scent or lure but simply set blind with the thought of catching the animal as it travels the trail.
This set is usually made where the animal is expected to step over a log or branch or possibly one places a small branch across the trail to act as a stepping stick.
This stepping stick if placed there should be about four inches above the trail if no snow is expected but if snowing or snow is expected it should be placed higher.
The correct distance from the stepping stick to the trap pan is very important; it should be seven inches from the pan for fox; nine inches for cat or coyote; 12 to 24 inches for wolf.
The trap is set just as in the blind scent or scent post set. It may be pressed down in the snow, or a place may be scooped out for the trap; after the trap is placed, one, of course, sifts snow over the trap until all is level and perfectly natural. As I write this the thought has persisted in my mind that the proper way to teach winter trapping and the preparations one should make in advance can best be told by telling of how I have caught many fox and coyote in many sets.
The bait trail is two trail sets with bait thrown between but as one who has become a good winter trapper knows there is no one set that can be recommended; one may set 50 traps and they may be set in a dozen different kinds of set which just goes back to my contention that the way to teach winter trapping is to tell how one has caught them and explain if possible in an manner that the reader can picture the sets being made somewhat like having been with me when I made them. Therefore,9 I am going to tell in my next chapter how I caught many foxes, in fact I got 13 fox and 5 coyote in January in just two dozen traps.
REMINISCENCE OF THE TRAP LINE
During November I was running two lines for mink, one of which ran through a very good fox and coyote territory; the first three sets were how I caught my first three foxes in snow sets that year.
While running my line during November we had a fresh snowfall of about three inches and while crossing an alder swamp on an old road I saw where a fox had crossed the road; I walked to the track and studied where the fox had passed.
About 15 feet south of the road I could see where the fox had passed through an opening between two alders; these alders crossed about two feet above the ground forming a V upside down; there was a small branch about eight inches from the ground that extended nearly to the other tree which formed a letter A upside down as the fox passed between them it stepped over this small branch. I was particularly interested in that fox as it was an extra-large fox. I thought “Now wouldn’t that be a swell set if that big old fellow would only cross there regularly”; to mark the place I walked back the road ten paces and with my knife blazed a small tree; then in a notebook made notes on the place. A few miles further on I saw another fox track; this fox had walked down a narrow ridge about 20 feet wide; this ridge was about fifty feet from a very high steep hill, between the ridge and the hill was a leather leaf swamp and north of the ridge was a marsh.
At the edge of the leather leaf swamp was a large rock about six feet high; about eight feet from the rock was a small brush pile; the fox had walked between the rock and the brush pile. All of this I wrote in my notebook.
Further on I crossed a long beaver dam; many hunters also used this dam as a trail; but in the fresh snow I saw a fox had crossed then followed the edge of the beaver pond; I looked around about 40 feet north of the end of the dam was a narrow trail about one foot wide and four feet long, worn through a small knoll by years of travel by probably deer. Again, I made notes on what I saw as I had no intention of setting for fox until after the mink season closed November 30th and the weather was cold.
These three places were only a few of the places I saw that day, the rest I will explain later but now I will tell the story of these three places and three foxes I got in them the first two trips to the traps I set there.
A few days after I saw these tracks the snow left and when I came to the brush pile and the rock, I just picked the brush pile up and slid it toward the rock about two feet; at the dam I dug a bed for a trap in the short trail through the knoll. Next time I came by I moved the brush pile a little nearer the rock and laid a stepping stick across the trail by the trap bed.
A few days later we had a little snow and I saw that the large fox had crossed the road and passed through the opening between the alders same as the first time; I looked a little closer and about ten feet from there I cloud see the point of a small ridge in the alder swamp.
When I got to my brush pile a fox had passed between it and the rock.
About a week later I again moved the brush pile to within two feet of the rock and went on and a few days later moved it to about a foot of the rock.
The latter part of November I saw that foxes were still passing between the brush pile and the rock so I slid a small branch from the brush to the rock about six inches above the snow to act as a stepping stick; the big fox passed between the alders about every fourth or fifth day and several foxes crossed the beaver dam, usually crossing on the ice back from the open water near the dam but always passing about 30 feet south of my trail through the knoll where I had dug the trap bed and placed the stepping stick.
After the close of the mink season, I took clean traps which I had tanned in soft maple bark, nailed them to a clog about two inches by four feet and hid a trap already set and wrapped in wax paper near each set location I had prepared.
One evening it was cloudy and looked like snow. I ate breakfast an hour before daylight and started out to my locations on the run; it had snowed about two inches and was snowing steadily. Arriving at the big fox’s crossing I set a trap on the south side of the branch it stepped over when passing between the two alders. I set the trap solid and packed snow around it but not against the trap; then fluffed a little snow over the trap and away on the run for my brush pile and rock set. I set a trap there where the fox would step over the stepping stick and away on the run for the narrow trail through the knoll. Here I set a trap in the bed I had ready and about 20 feet north of the trap I threw a partly rotted rat carcass which I had saved; in fact, I had saved the carcass of every muskrat I had caught; I continued to set traps at other places I will describe later until about noon when the snowstorm slowed up and started getting colder. It had then snowed about three inches from the time I set my first trap at daybreak, so I went home.
Three days later I tended the traps; at the alder letter A set I had the big old fellow, one of the biggest fox I ever saw; it weighed fourteen pounds, a beautiful old male.
At the brush pile rock set the snow had drifted some and I could see no sign of disturbance so started on; I walked about ten steps when I thought I heard a trap chain jingle; I stopped and looked around and there in the leatherleaf marsh was Mr. Foxie peeking at me; was I happy or was I happy.
The next set was the beaver dam set but no fox and no tracks. I then left the traps for four days, the one where I caught the big fellow I took up as he was the only one crossing there on any previous snow but four days later, I visited my traps. When I got to the brush pile, I could see that something had disturbed it. I looked around but could see no sign of the fox so I circled the swamp and came to a place where the snow had not drifted; it had also snowed an inch or two; there I could see where a fox had dragged the clog; it had become tangled up a time or two and torn the brush; I traced it to a small marsh and circled the marsh but no sign of where it came out, I looked but no red fox showed so started across the marsh and nearly stepped on a big coyote hiding in the grass; it started lunging and snapping at the trap so I shot it.
At the trail through the knoll a nice red fox was waiting and three or four more had been running back and forth across the dam and through my trail; they had circled the trapped one and tore up the snow for yards around as the one in the trap was a female. Later I got another fox at this place and a fox and coyote at the brush pile rock set.
Down along the Lake Michigan shore there were three narrow ridges. The newest one near the lake was sandy and rough, then a narrow-wet swamp, another narrow ridge, then another narrow swamp and another narrow ridge then swamp for miles.
I prospected this area for the first time after Christmas and talk about fox tracks, there were none on the ridge nearest the shore and none on the last one but the middle one was covered with tracks.
At the time there was about ten inches of snow, so I set down and did a little thinking; in fact, I did a lot of thinking and here was the plan that came to mind.
If I set traps on the ridge where they were travelling every night, they may scent the trap and leave so I went to the ridge about 100 feet north, the one farthest from the lake; on my feet I had rubbers which had been thoroughly washed and never worn in the house; I kept them in the pump house, taking them off there and wearing others to the house. I cut a cedar tree about ten feet high and bent the branches back behind others until I had a slim brush about ten feet long.
I then started down the ridge keeping my feet together and tramping a trail in the snow about eight inches deep. I put the butt of the tree against my back, held it with one hand and pressed down with the other; I dragged this in the trail behind me to smooth out my tracks and make a nice trail.
After making a trail about 100 feet I walked between a stump and the log from the stump which lay about a foot or so from the stump; further on I came to a raspberry thicket a few feet wide. I took my knife and cut a trail through this, it was about four feet long, then made my trail through it laying one branch across the trail for stepping stick; further on I came to a large log laying across the ridge about three feet above the snow. The berry bushes had grown up to this log like a fence; I cut an opening and made a trail under the log and went on about 100 feet further.
Next, I walked back through the swamp about 30 feet north of the trail I had made and due north of each of the three narrow places I had prepared I made a small blaze on a tree and hid a trap at each place and went on.
In a few days we got about four inches of snow and a few days later when snowing I hurried to these places. I set a trap at each and in between each trap about halfway I threw a rotten muskrat carcass which I cut in many small pieces so the fox wouldn’t grab the bait and leave.
First trip I had two foxes, next trip two foxes. I got several there before the snow spoiled my trail and have made the same kind of sets for many years and with good success. That is what I call a bait trail set and is my favorite set for winter.
Now the reason for choosing the north ridge was that the fox were not traveling it and not familiar with it so would not notice any changes I had made, also with the wind being from the north most of the time it would carry the odor of the bait across the ridge they were traveling.
I waited until after a snow so all would look natural and any odor, I may have left there had time to blow away.
Another place I made a bait trail set with four traps where two old logging roads crossed. At this place the foxes were running a low wide ridge through a big cedar swamp and I couldn’t find no decent place for a set. About 200 feet west of this ridge was an old logging road running parallel with the ridge and at one place another road running east and west crossed it and the ridge.
I went to the corners where the roads crossed and looked it over
About 50 feet to the west of the corners was a natural narrow trail, to the east were several small trees in the road; one of these I cut out to make a narrow trail. To the south I made a narrow trail by planting two small evergreens and to the north the road was quite wide and open; there I cut down a balsam tree and felled it across the road; I cut it about four feet above the ground and let the butt hang on the stump, the top of the tree I rested a crotched stake high enough so that the branches just reached the snow, in the middle of the road I cut out a couple branches and by bending a few more to the side I had a perfect trail under the tree trunk and between the branches.
Several days later when it was snowing, I set four traps, one in each direction from the corners, the closest about 50 feet from the corner and the farthest about 100 feet; I then chopped up three rat carcasses, threw one at the corner and several pieces up each road near the traps.
First time one fox, second one fox, third one fox and a bobcat.
Another time I caught an extra-large coyote in a deer trail. I had a snowshoe trail up an old road that skirted a group of small open springs. The deer apparently visited these springs as they had a deep trail through the snow from their yard to them. I had noticed a very large coyote ran this about once a week or oftener but as there was no bounty and the pelts nearly worthless, I paid little attention to it.
One day just after a fresh snow I saw its track in the deer trail again and it being such a large one I decided to trap it. About three feet from the snowshoe trail the deer trail passed between two quite small alders. I stepped over and bent them so that they crossed each other about three feet above the trail and two days later when I passed there, I saw the deer were turning out around them.
I laid a small stepping stick across the trail and set a trap directly under the crossed alders.
Three days later the coyote stepped squarely in the trap.
At another time I saw where two coyotes had come to my snowshoe trail and followed alongside it for about 100 yards then had walked up a leaning log to look things over; then they had run and jumped my trail, both jumping in the same tracks.
A few days later they did the same and again a few days later.
One day later when it was snowing, I set a trap where they jumped my trail and another where they jumped off the leaning log. The first trip I had then both; apparently, I got one at the tree and the other became frightened and ran, jumping my snowshoe trail right in my trap.
Another time I saw where several coyotes were crossing the Waiska River on a large log, so I took a small pole and laid it from the bank across the log for them to step over.
After they had crossed the log several times I put on my boots and when snowing I waded up stream to the log, chopped a notch in the log and set a trap where they stepped over the pole I had laid there; the first time I looked at the trap I had a coyote hanging by one leg and drowned in the river.
Apparently, the others had become wary of the log for it was about two weeks before I got another. Shortly after the river froze over and that ended that set. If I had lived there for many years, I probably would have gotten dozens of them in that one set.
One time when trapping the Rock River, I had noticed one place along the river where fox tracks were numerous on the early snows. Investigation showed they were coming from an old swamp road and each time passing through a crack about a foot wide in a large rock that sometime had split and spread apart leaving a cleft thru which the rabbits, porcupine and other animals had a clearly defined trail; the foxes were passing through it also.
To prevent rabbits springing the traps I laid two stepping sticks across the trail about ten inches apart and eight inches above the trail and set the trap with the pan between these stepping sticks, the idea being that the rabbits would jump over both sticks while the fox would step between them on the trap.
Everything worked out right as I caught two foxes there and had no trouble with rabbits.
One time I bought a block of salt, sawed it in four pieces and laid them to form a square about 100 feet square.
During the summer and fall the rabbits and deer made trails to them and when fall came, I had two trails about 100 feet long crossing each other; in November I cut a poplar tree at each block of salt for the rabbits to feed on.
The rabbits kept a good trail through the snow and the foxes came to feed on the rabbits. I made a set in each trail using two stepping sticks as in the set at the split rock and threw some bait where the trails crossed.
That was my first experiment with such a set, but I got a fox and coyote there that winter.
This brings my instructions to a close. The important factor in setting traps in winter is to set, then let them snow under if possible as the snow is then soft and fluffy and unless a rain, sleet or thaw the traps will work until under about six inches of snow. However, if setting when not snowing always sift the snow over the trap using a waxed wooden spoon; let the snow fall through the air as near as possible like a natural snowstorm.
Be sure the traps are absolutely clean and odorless.
Another important factor in the use of bait during winter, always lay the bait on the ground where it will snow under and not freeze, if bait is hung up it will freeze solid and give off far less odor than if under the snow where it does not freeze.
I want you to feel free to write me your problems of the trap line and I will write and help you all I can.
Please read every word of this book and follow my instructions implicitly and I know you will be satisfied and successful.
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